Gathering on the Margins – 5 May

This week in our gathering on the margins we were talking about the media, and the issues around reporting people’s stories fairly and accurately.

We are having these gatherings every Tuesday at 2 pm. Join us on Zoom to connect with people across the country to hear each other’s stories, discuss issues that we are facing and share advice.

We are having these gatherings every Tuesday at 2 pm. Join us on Zoom to connect with people across the country to hear each other’s stories, discuss issues that we are facing and share advice.

Matt Sowerby, our poet in digital residence started us off by sharing a poem he had written inspired by a conversation with Penny about life on the Byker estate. Matt observed that often in the media people living in poverty are often either demonised as ‘benefit scroungers’ or made into unrealistically angelic victims with no agency for themselves, and both of these portrayals strip them of their humanity. In his poem he tries to bring a more balanced perspective in what is happening in the Byker community.

After a short ice-breaker session in which we discussed stories we had seen recently in the media that had been uplifting, Gavin, our media coordinator, talked about his role in connecting journalists with people who want to share their stories.

There was then the opportunity for people to share issues they would like to see picked up by the media and talk about experience they have had working with the media themselves, or other issues connected with sharing people’s stories. We had a wide range of stories, but a recurring theme was the issue of not feeding into a narrative that just simplistically portrays people as heroes or victims, and does not explore what Nick Waterfield described the ‘middle stories’, that actually reflect real life.

Another issue people said that they were facing when trying to get people’s stories into the media is people’s reluctance to share these stories, whether because they do not feel their story is worthy or because life gets in the way so they don’t have the opportunity to tell it. Both Tish from ATD and Ben spoke about how it is better if people have ownership of the way their stories are told.

After this we broke off into smaller breakout rooms. For those who had specific stories that they wanted to share with a journalist this was an opportunity to speak directly with Maryam from the Mirror. Everyone else had the opportunity to discuss in more detail in smaller groups experiences we have had working with the media on issues around poverty.

After the breakout session Ben talked about the importance of getting the right balance between telling personal stories and showing the bigger picture. Gavin spoke about the power of cumulative story-telling, having multiple share their individual stories, to build a larger story with greater impact. An example of effective cumulative story-telling is the work that Tia has contributed to with the Food Foundation, which can be found here.

Next week we will be exploring creative responses to Covid-19, and we will be joined by poet Matt Sowerby, blogger and spoken word performer Ellis Howard, filmmaker Broden Salmon, musician Clare Pettinger and others. This one is not to be missed, so do join us on Tuesday at 2 pm.

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The Collective, Pilot – Church responses to the crisis

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Are we all in the same boat? Share your thoughts for our video

We’re making a short film as part of Church Action on Poverty’s Food Power programme’s creative responses to COVID-19. We're asking the question ‘Are we all in the same boat?' and we want your contributions.

You can get involved by:

  • Sending us a short audio clip on your reflections to the question ‘Are we all in the same boat?’
  • Send us five photos or a short video responding to the question ‘Are we all in the same boat?’ Some ideas might be:
    • A meal, something you’ve eaten or haven’t eaten
    • A time you’ve felt connected or resilient
    • A time you’ve felt angry, anxious or sad
    • Something you’ve repeated
    • Something you miss
  • Send an email or call us by phone to share your experience of life during lockdown and/or reflections on ‘Are we all in the same boat?’
Food Power Empowerment Programme Officer

How one estate pulled together and how covid could change it forever

The Collective, Pilot – Church responses to the crisis

A place to call home

How one estate pulled together and how covid could change it forever

The Collective, Pilot – Church responses to the crisis

A place to call home

Gathering on the Margins – 28th April

We are more reliant than ever on digital connection during the lockdown, but for many people it is very difficult to get the digital access they need to stay connected. At this week’s Gathering on the Margins we looked at the issue of digital exclusion.

We are having these gatherings every Tuesday at 2 pm. Join us on Zoom to connect with people across the country to hear each other’s stories, discuss issues that we are facing and share advice.

Before we got into the main topic of digital exclusion, Matt Sowerby, our poet in residence, shared a very moving poem he had written in conjunction with Stef Benstead drawing from the conversations we had had in the gathering a couple of weeks ago when we talked about how the crisis is affecting the lives of disabled people.

ATD Fourth World has been working with people who are struggling with digital access. Tish Mason gave us examples of different ways in which people are digitally excluded. In some cases people do not have access to the technology itself – phones, laptops, tablets, etc., that would allow them to be digitally connected. Tish told us about a woman who needed to buy a phone in order to access the internet, but would have had to pay for it online, which she couldn’t do because she didn’t have a phone.

But even if even if you do have the physical bit of technology, there is still the issue of actually being able to access the internet. Some schools are sending tablets to their students to allow them to do school work, but these useless without Wi-Fi. Tish told us that many people are using their neighbours Wi-Fi, but this may leave them with an obligation that perhaps they would prefer not to have.

Some people are able to connect to the internet through mobile data, which is of course expensive and reliant on good signal. Patricia Bailey, who was only able to join us via audio rather than video, told us about the trouble she has had connecting to Zoom calls because the signal where she lives is not strong enough.

People who want to tell their stories and share their experiences of digital exclusion are really struggling because most of the opportunities to do that are now online. Digital exclusion is having a major impact on the lives of people in poverty at the moment, but it is even harder for them to raise their voices about it. Furthermore, the issue seems so insurmountable that some organisations are reluctant to even address it. As Tish points out people who have not had access to the internet before now urgently needs it, it is not a luxury in this situation.

Katy from the APLE Collective gave us more examples of how digital exclusion is affecting people’s lives. Getting support from neighbours, job searches, accessing Universal Credit, receiving important public health messages, and maintaining family connections in difficult circumstances are all so much harder without digital access.

The APLE Collective are sharing people’s experiences of digital exclusion through a series of blogs, which you can read here. If you would like to contribute to this please contact Katy at contact@aplecollective.com  The Collective have also sent a letter to Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and are following this up with a letter to each metro mayor and trying to raise this issue in the media as much as possible.

We were very lucky in this session that we could be joined by Tia, a young person from Lancashire who has been experiencing digital exclusion and has only just got a laptop allowing her to join these calls. She shared how digital exclusion has been affecting the lives of her friends and family. She told us how she needed internet access to receive free school meal vouchers by email, and then a printer to print them off – something she is luckily able to do, but not all of her friends are. Home-schooling without a computer is almost impossible, and Tia told us how her younger sister has not been able to do her schoolwork for nearly a month. Digital exclusion is not a new issue for Tia and her friends. She told us about the difficulties they had completing assignments at home when she was in college, but lockdown has only made the need for digital access more urgent.

Next week (Tuesday 5th May, 2 pm), we will be looking at the media and reporting stories from the margins. We will be joined by a journalist from the Mirror and there will be opportunity to discuss important issues you would like to see reported on more.

1 city, 8 tales: sudden poverty & an outpouring of goodwill

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Gathering on the Margins – 9 June

Church Action on Poverty in Sheffield Update, June 2020

Viral Song

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The Collective, Pilot – Church responses to the crisis

A place to call home

Poet in digital residence

Matt Sowerby is Church Action on Poverty's poet in digital residence during the coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s Matt performing ‘Breadlines’, the poem he wrote for our End Hunger campaign.

Through lockdown, Matt helped Church Action on Poverty’s partners and supporters to respond creatively to the impact of the virus and lockdown, with weekly workshops and inspirational online performances.

Matt is now compiling an anthology of the poems people have written during the workshops. 

We’ll share more details soon, and in the meantime you can click below to read and watch some of the poetry that’s been produced so far! 

How one estate pulled together and how covid could change it forever

The Collective, Pilot – Church responses to the crisis

A place to call home

creative writing

Read or watch poems

creative writing

Read or watch poems

See poems produced by Matt and others in our workshops.
Read poems

How one estate pulled together and how covid could change it forever

The Collective, Pilot – Church responses to the crisis

A place to call home

Gathering on the Margins – 21 April

Our weekly Zoom call, Gathering on the Margins, this week focussed on how the benefits system is/isn’t working during this crisis.

We are having these gatherings every Tuesday at 2 pm. Join us on Zoom to connect with people across the country to hear each other’s stories, discuss issues that we are facing and share advice.

Penny told us about how the self-employed are the among the hardest hit, especially those who haven’t been self-employed long enough to qualify for financial support. She says that the wait for those now applying for Universal Credit is astronomical, so people who were already on benefits are actually better off than those who previously had reasonable incomes.

Andrew from End Hunger Cornwall gave us an update on the situation in the South West. Cornwall is particularly affected because the local economy usually relies on the boost that is brought by holiday makers in the summer, and a lot of local people work seasonal jobs.

Paul Morrison from the Joint Public Issues Team gave us an insight into how the DWP is adapting to the increasing demand for Universal Credit, reorganising themselves so more people are working on dealing with the applications. However, Paul points out, the real problem is the people who have no recourse to public funds and can’t get support.

The discussion did not just focus on the current system. We also tried to radically reimagine what a welfare system that works for everyone could look like. Simon Duffy from the Centre for Welfare Reform told us about the work being done around the idea of Universal Basic Income, which would function as an economic floor that supports everyone. The idea of UBI has been around for a while, but the current crisis might give the it some political momentum.

Universal Basic Income would be a long-term solution, but Niall argued that we need a something quick and short-term first to help people get through the immediate crisis. He explained the concept of ‘helicopter money’ which would be a one-time emergency cash payment to every household in the country. It would not be means-tested because that would delay the money reaching those who really need it.

It is great to have these gatherings and brilliant that we are able to stay connected online. However, many people are severely isolated at the moment because they don’t have the necessary technology for staying connected or aren’t able to access to the internet. Fully aware of the irony of doing this on Zoom, next week we will be discussing the issue of Digital Exclusion.

Join us at 2 pm on Tuesday 28 April.

If you have any feedback or suggestions for these gatherings, contact me at felicity@church-poverty.org.uk

1 city, 8 tales: sudden poverty & an outpouring of goodwill

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Gathering on the Margins – 9 June

Church Action on Poverty in Sheffield Update, June 2020

Viral Song

How one estate pulled together and how covid could change it forever

The Collective, Pilot – Church responses to the crisis

A place to call home

SPARK newsletter summer 2020 – online edition

Click on the right to download the latest issue of SPARK, our newsletter for supporters of Church Action on Poverty.

We’re very sorry, but for the first time in many years, we aren’t able to send out a printed newsletter. Our printer is closed because of the coronavirus outbreak, and our staff and volunteers are unable to manage the mailing.

So please share this digital newsletter as widely as you can in your church, and with friends and family.

The focus of this issue is on the ways we can stay connected despite lockdown and isolation. It’s full of inspiring stories of how communities continue to look after one another. It also has tips and ideas to help you stay well, and to use the time for reading, thinking, prayer and reflection.

Annual review 2018-19

Why End UK Hunger?

SPARK newsletter autumn 2019

Reflecting together: Being Church on the Margins in a time of coronavirus

What does it mean to be a Church on the Margins? A monthly space for shared reflection in these challenging times: 2pm on the second Thursday of every month.

These are extraordinary times for all of us, but what does it mean to be a ‘church on the margins’ and to seek to be attentive to and inclusive of those on margins of society in the current context?

We are not offering any answers, but simply a space to reflect together with others on these challenging times, on our own hopes and fears, on the practical and theological issues thrown up by the crisis, and what it means for church, discipleship, ministry and spirituality to be a ‘Church on the Margins’ at this current time.

Each session will start with a short reflection, but mostly be spent in small groups sharing together our own experiences, thoughts and reflections on these questions.

The event will take place via Zoom. You can participate via any internet-enabled device with a microphone (laptop, tablet, phone etc) – or simply over the phone. Once you have signed up via Eventbrite, we will send you a link or a phone number that will allow you to take part.

Sign up for one session, or for the whole series. Dip in and give it a go!

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The Collective, Pilot – Church responses to the crisis

A place to call home

Gathering on the Margins – 14 April

On Tuesday we had the third of our Gatherings on the Margins on Zoom. This week we talked about how lockdown is affecting the lives of disabled people.

We are having these gatherings every Tuesday at 2 pm. Join us on Zoom to connect with people across the country to hear each other’s stories, discuss issues that we are facing and share advice.

This week we were focussing on how lockdown is affecting the lives of disabled people. Stef Benstead, author of Second Class Citizens, shared some of her insights. Stef has been exploring the problems that disabled people face in accessing the support they need for the last eight years. She told us that one of the issues now is that many people have a lack of understanding of what the problems were before the virus struck, which means that there is a lack of understanding of what the issues are now. Stef told us about the experiences of a many different disabled people, especially the difficulties they are facing shopping or accessing food.

Read Stef’s blog post Living in Lockdown: sustainability here.

The additional difficulties accessing food many disabled and chronically ill people face was a common theme in the discussion. Not all those who need food deliveries are able to get them, and Penny explained that even if you are lucky enough to get a delivery slot, the food you order might not arrive, or what you receive might not be adequate. Ben pointed out that even government food parcels might not be adequate, for example, a tin of tomatoes is not suitable for a 94-year-old with dementia who wouldn’t be able to open it, let alone cook with it.

We also heard how the lockdown can exacerbate mental health conditions. Those who rely on others to shop for them may feel guilty about sending others out to get their food or frustrated at their lack of independence. The lack of social contact can make anxiety and depression much worse and, as Penny pointed out, vulnerable people told to self-isolate by the government can feel that they are being banished to their houses

Both Penny and Andrew talked about how those needing medical treatment are left in a difficult position as their treatments are postponed or cancelled, and they are left without the support they need to cope with their medical conditions.

We were also joined by Evan Odell from Disability Rights UK. He talked about concerns about social care, and how the Coronavirus Bill allows local authorities to suspend their responsibilities under the Care Act, but it is unclear exactly how this process will be overseen.

Next week we will be discussing the benefits system. Join us on Zoom at 2 pm on the 21st April.

If you have any feedback or suggestions for these gatherings, contact me at felicity@church-poverty.org.uk

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Church on the Margins: resilience

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Church on the Margins in the time of coronavirus

Solidarity and sacrifice

The prophetic imagination

How one estate pulled together and how covid could change it forever

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Gathering on the Margins – 7 April

On Tuesday we had another of our weekly Gatherings on the Margins, this time focusing especially on the issue of food insecurity.

We are having these gatherings every Tuesday at 2 pm. Join us on Zoom to connect with people across the country to hear each other’s stories, discuss issues that we are facing and share advice.

These gatherings seek to provide connection, inspiration, news, encouragement and ideas for action for people across the country who are concerned about or seeking to respond to the impact of the coronavirus crisis on people and communities on the margins.

On Tuesday we were joined by Kay Johnson from the Lancashire Larder, who told us about how they have turned their café into a service for delivering cooked meals to people. The Larder are also running a scheme during the school holidays for families in Preston that would usually access free school meals. They are providing these families with ingredient packs and daily video recipes, so the kids can cook their own healthy meals. You can find out more about the Lancashire Larder here.

We heard from Bernadette Askins about how a foodbank in South Tyneside is adapting to the higher demand  and increased difficulty in accessing food supply, while doing what they can to keep everyone safe. They are now doing deliveries for people who have to isolate and who have no car, so they don’t have to use public transport. They have also started delivering Family Food Packs with five days’ worth of food.

Tricia, from Bridging the Gap, filled us in on various different projects in Glasgow that are keeping people connected and providing food for those who need it.

Ben Pearson told us about some of the experiences of some young people that he works with in Lancashire. They would usually have free school meals, but the replacements are not accessible. For example, where the school had provided supermarket vouchers, access to the internet and email was required to receive them, and the use of a printer and paper in order use them in shops. Furthermore, the vouchers are only valid in the mainstream supermarkets, which are not accessible to those who do not live near them.

Overall, this gathering gave people the opportunity to express their frustrations about the way that lockdown makes accessing food so much more difficult for some people. But, despite all our frustrations, we ended on a positive note. James Henderson from Transforming Communities Together told us about the #peopleofhope initiative, which is aiming to spread positivity and hope. You can here him talking about it here:

We also heard from Matt Sowerby, our Poet in Digital Residence. He wants to hear people’s stories and experiences so he can work with you on expressing them creatively. You can contact him by email at Mattsowerby.poetry@gmail.com, or on Twitter: @matt_sourbee, if you want to get involved.

The next gathering will be on Tuesday 14 April, on the theme of people with disabilities. You can join us on Zoom by clicking the link below:

1 city, 8 tales: sudden poverty & an outpouring of goodwill

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Gathering on the Margins – 9 June

Church Action on Poverty in Sheffield Update, June 2020

Viral Song

How one estate pulled together and how covid could change it forever

The Collective, Pilot – Church responses to the crisis

A place to call home

New pantry friendship scheme to avert food shortages for thousands

8 April 2020

Thousands of people could be protected from food shortages during the coronavirus crisis, after the launch of a friendship project was fast-tracked

The Friends of Your Local Pantry scheme will raise cash from individuals and businesses, to ensure food provision for neighbours at risk of severe poverty.

The Your Local Pantry network has 14 member run food clubs around the UK, providing members with regular access to supermarket food at greatly reduced prices. The pantries pre-empt hunger and loosening the grip of poverty, freeing up more income for other costs and essential bills.

In March, the number of visits to the pantries passed 1,000 in a month for the first time, but the coronavirus crisis has threatened supply chains and organisers anticipate increased need over the coming months.

Today, the project is launching its Friends of Your Local Pantry scheme so that through one-off or monthly donations, supporters can prevent pantries from running low on staple foods, ensuring members can stay afloat in tough times.

The Your Local Pantry Team at Lighthouse in Middleton, in March 2019

Pantries offer fresh and chilled food, as well as frozen, long-life and tinned goods. Members can routinely choose what they put in their basket, typically being able to access around £20 of food for just £3 or £4 a week. Nationally, pantries have 1,400 members and provide for 3,600 adults and children, with pantries in Greater Manchester, London, the West Midlands, Cardiff, Preston, Stoke-on-Trent and Liverpool.

Church Action on Poverty runs the national network, following the success of a local scheme developed by Stockport Homes in 2014. Pantries source food from Fareshare and local suppliers, and members pay a weekly subscription, which allows them to access a set number of heavily-discounted items each week.

Gillian Oliver, pantry project worker at Church Action on Poverty, said: “The coronavirus crisis has caused sudden hardship and natural fear for people across the country. We know it will mean many more parents losing work, children potentially going hungry, and people worrying about food security. For that reason, we have brought forward the launch of our friendship scheme, so our supporters and the wider public can act now to prevent hunger.”

The Your Local Pantry team in Preston, in 2019

Pantries are a proven solution across the country, preventing thousands of people from being swept deeper into poverty. People have already been phoning us asking how they can donate, and the friends scheme allows us to respond to that compassion in the best way. Signing up could not be easier – all the details are at www.yourlocalpantry.co.uk/friend

Some pantries have already adapted since the coronavirus lockdown began. The pantry in Peckham has had to move to another room to enable safe distancing, but has also reduced its fee and the food it can provide, due to supply interruptions. The pantry in Smethwick had to relocate when the library where it was based closed.

Individuals and businesses are being asked to sign up to the friends scheme. They will be able to select a single pantry to receive 75% of their donation, with the rest used equally across the whole network, or they can donate to the central fund.

All donors will be acknowledged in Your Local Pantry communications or events, and the largest business supporters will be supported to include the work in their corporate social responsibility portfolio. Businesses pledging £50 a month of more can attend and contribute to the Your Local Pantry AGM and can request a talk to their business from the leader of their local project.

Notes to editors

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Food insecurity and social isolation in Sheffield

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